As part of their month-long series of protests over the closure of Remploy factories, disabled workers attended the TUC Congress in Brighton on Tuesday of this week.
Pressure from workers has forced the government to try to come up with new proposals.
But the best work and pensions secretary Peter Hain can manage is to try and persuade 2,200 disabled workers at the 43 Remploy factories facing closure or merger to take new jobs with Asda, Tesco and other private companies.
Most wages at the state owned Remploy range between £6.30 and £8 an hour, with 25 days’ paid holiday, up to six months’ sick pay on full salary, plus a final salary pension.
In contrast, workers at Tesco and Asda rarely earn more than £6 an hour, do not have final salary pensions or such long paid holidays.
The unions fighting the closures – GMB, Unite and Community – are stepping up their campaign to save the factories and are building for a national demonstration at the Labour Party conference.
A campaign bus has been travelling the country visiting all of the threatened Remploy sites, 32 of which are set to close and 11 of which will merge with other factories.
Workers are furious about the offer being made to staff to persuade them to leave.
Paul, a Remploy worker in Yorkshire, told Socialist Worker, “It is ridiculous to say, ‘Here’s some cash – now go work for Tesco. I have a proper skilled job here and I want to keep it.
“We don’t want other employment – we want the Remploy factories to stay open. Rather than giving money to supermarkets the government should spend the money on keeping factories open.”
GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said, “The claim that axing disabled workers in productive jobs is necessary to find jobs for disabled workers shows the extent of policy confusion and muddle that surrounds the proposed closure.
“We are urging that the contracts be returned to Remploy to keep disabled workers in jobs that they did in the past. Our aim is to generate a groundswell where the politicians who can sort this out are given the backbone to do so.”
For the more details and the dates of the Remploy workers’ protest tour go to » www.gmb.org.uk/remploy